By Jodi Bryant

When a 21-year-old Dave Boyd embarked on a leather handcraft career back in 1971, he probably didn't imagine he'd still be doing it in his 70s.

He took a break – a long break from the industry, and ran a successful water filter business for 30 years. But in January he came full circle and resurrected Kopper Moth, the popular business he started with a surfing buddy on Vine St Whangarei.

Dave recalls: "I was 19 and a hippy surfer in Australia and I bought a pair of moccasins with fringing. They were this authentic American/Indian sort of thing. Once they wore out, I took a pattern off them and made another pair. Then I decided to start making sandals."

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He started receiving orders from friends and discovered that he could make a living by selling just two pairs of sandals a week.

Dave and his friend decided to go into business together and started Kopper Moth – the name stemming from the popular Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin band names at the time.

Their wares evolved into bags when Reva (famous in Whangarei for her pizzeria) entered his shop with husband Doug one day sporting a fancy leather handbag she'd purchased in Malibu.

"I was so taken by it, I asked if I could take a pattern and that became the foundation of a lot of the bags we made."

The business thrived, so much so, that Dave would spot his creations on the street. As well as sandals and bags, the pair made and sold leather belts and other accessories from their Vine St base for two and a half years, before going their separate ways. Dave then moved out to Pataua South and set up a factory where he exported and supplied nationwide before waking up one day in 1990 and deciding he'd had enough.

He sold the business to a man in Katikati who continued to run it until 2005. When Dave spotted the ad for water filters, it seemed the obvious step as he was keen on natural and healthy living. He continued to run the business for almost 30 years until selling to his daughter and her husband last year before deciding to go full circle and return to leather work.

"I thought, well I'm still fit and healthy and active. Travelling didn't appeal because I'm a homeboy so thought I'd try my creative juices again," says the 71-year-old.

Now living in town, Dave has transformed part of his garage into a workshop and started from scratch reacquiring the tools.

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Coincidentally, the leather splitter machine he purchased on Facebook turned out to be his original that he sold with the business 30 years earlier.

He says not a lot has changed in the trade; the tools are the same but the dyes are now water-based. However, the trends are different.

"I've been making a variety of styles – you've got the man bag and women's bags have evolved to include pockets for cell phones and key ring holders."

Dave says no two bags are the same and he can also custom design. As well as bags, he makes belts, hair barrettes, knife sheaths and other leather items, all designed, cut and (some) stitched by hand.

Their durability was proven during Dave's last year in the water filter industry when, having realised who he was, his 91-year-old client produced one of his hang bags.

"It was still perfectly intact and with my name inside," says Dave. "It looked as good as new."